Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

MICHAEL DRAKE Gresham's School, Holt


> Gresham's School, Holt

The image of Britain's pre-eminent church choir is that portrayed in the annual broadcast on Christmas Eve and daily services.

But there is far more to the repertoire of these young choristers and choral scholars than that and on Saturday in the School Chapel, although the programme had much affinity with the Christmas period, they gave a broad view of their wider choral skills.

Set back in the Sanctuary, the Chapel acoustics did them no favours at all and it was not the 'Christmas Eve' sound that was heard.

Nevertheless, conducted concisely by Stephen Cleobury, the choir's renowned clarity and precision was still evident.

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It took a little while, but in Sweelinck's declamatory Hodie Christus natus est, with its tricky rhythms and soaring treble line, they got into their stride, and hit the heights in Poulenc's Four Christmas Motets in which transparent early bars of Videntes stellam were worth the wait.

The sound of an excellent mixed voice choir purveyed 20th-century compositions, and after the interesting harmonies of contemporary composers came Old Greshamian Benjamin Britten's Hymn to the Virgin - beautiful music, beautifully performed.

Finally, Vaughan-Williams' weaving Fantasia on Christmas Carols, with an embryo star baritone soloist, contained exemplary diction (of course) and here was perhaps more of the sound for which the choir is recognised worldwide.

There were also organ interludes played by college scholars - inventive Bach variations and reverberating Messiaen to complete a fine evening's music.

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